submitted by Brad Drotar
After what has felt like a lifetime for many football fans, our seven-month wait is over. Week 1 is upon us! Tonight’s Thursday night showdown between the Texans and Chiefs will likely be a high-scoring offensive showdown between two superstar quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Each of whom, consistently remind me of my reality that I will never be a hundreds of millions-aire…at least not due to my athletic prowess.
Aside from that, we have a ton to look forward to! For fantasy lunatics like myself, I cannot wait to absolutely lose my mind the first time one of my players scores a touchdown. Even more exciting than that, will be the opportunity to verbally abuse my league-mates to the point they question why they are my friends in the first place.
But above all, we have Ravens football THIS SUNDAY! And this isn’t going to be your average season opener. The Week 1 matchup is a division game against the Browns and there is no better feeling than the momentum of starting the season with a divisional win. So what have we seen in seasons past against the Browns and what should be done to ensure a Week 1 victory?
Well, lets get into it.
Without further ado, I give you Week 1’s Throwback Thursday (Or as Odell Beckham Jr. might call it, Throwback Turdsday – look it up if you don’t get it…just not at work.)
Taking a look back at previous Week 1 results, Odell would be delighted to see that the Browns have a long history of getting sh*t on in their season opener. They are 1-19-1, with their only win coming against the Ravens back in 2004 (in Cleveland). The Ravens however, have a much cleaner record at 13-11 (including 8-4 at home). These stats include all season openers.
Let’s take a look specifically at matchups between the Ravens and Browns. The Ravens have a pretty large cushion when it comes to their record against the Browns. They are 31-11 all time against Cleveland, including 16-5 at home. Complementary to their record, the Ravens have also outscored the Browns 983-653 all time.
While those numbers will keep Ravens fans optimistic this week, we need to take a look at the teams’ two games last season. The two contests yielded very different results and it is important to remember what happened in each game that led to those drastically different outcomes.
In the first matchup, the Browns overcame the Ravens 40-25 in Baltimore. First, lets look at what the Browns did right in this game. One of the most critical aspects was possession time. We all know that the Ravens almost always succeed when they are able to keep possession and control the clock with their run game. In this game, the Browns possessed the ball just over 50% of the game, giving the Ravens the ball for only 29 minutes (compare that to the Ravens’ season average TOP of nearly 35 minutes).
By keeping the ball out of the Ravens’ hands, the Browns were not only able to take advantage of the sub-par rush defense by feeding Nick Chubb – who rushed 20 times for 165 yards & thre touchdowns, with a long of 88 yards – but also forced Lamar Jackson to throw the ball more, effectively snuffing out the most potent piece of the Ravens offense, the rush game (Mark Ingram rushed 12 times for 71 yards, and Jackson added nine for 66). By forcing the Ravens to play more pass heavy, the Browns were able to get to Jackson, and not only with pressure from the front-four (four sacks), but also by forcing Jackson to attempt some tough throws, resulting in two interceptions.
The next matchup between the two teams in December looked very different. On December 22nd, the Ravens granted Odell’s Christmas wishes early by giving his team a Brown, steamy, smelly loss.
What did the Ravens do this time around that was missing in the previous matchup? Well to start, the Ravens were able to keep possession of the football a majority of the time (34 minutes). This allowed them to unleash their running backs as well as to let Jackson run. Gus Edwards and Ingram combined for 20 rushes and 121 yards, and Jackson accrued 103 rushing yards on 17 carries.
With the Browns needing to focus on the run, Jackson faced substantially less pressure, resulting in a line of 20-31 passing with 238 yards, three TDs, no interceptions and no sacks.
The Ravens defense also stepped up to the plate. This time around, Chubb was only able to rush for 45 yards on 15 attempts (3 yards/carry). They also held Baker Mayfield and his receivers to just 192 yards and two scores, picking off Baker once.
Given what we learned from last season, what should we expect from the Ravens this Sunday to ensure a win? Well to start, there are two new challenges that Chubb and Cleveland’s O-line will have to face…two huge challenges. One of them is 6’8” 300-lb mountain of a man, Calais Campbell, and this other is 6’5” 284-lb wrecking ball Derek Wolfe. I hope the Browns enjoy meeting them as much as I am going to enjoy watching it happen.
Baltimore’s improved D-line and linebacker corps will play a huge role in shutting down Chubb and applying pressure to Mayfield. This will have a domino effect on their passing game. Mayfield will have less time in the pocket, resulting in less time for receivers to get open. I expect the Browns to cough up a couple turnovers this weekend. On offense, the Ravens will need to keep possession and run the ball while utilizing their speedy receivers and break-out tight end Mark Andrews to keep the defense honest.
Keep the energy and hype up Ravens Flock.
WEEK 1 HAS ARRIVED!